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The Biology of Starvation or Why Your Diet is Doomed!
To say that dieting rarely leads to sustainable weight loss isn't particularly controversial - just ask anyone who's been on a diet in the last twenty years. What is perhaps more surprising is why they don't work. Most books would have you believe that you've either been on the wrong diet (too many/few meals, too much/little carbohydrates, etc.) or you lack the willpower to stick with your diet. In fact, the answer would appear to be in your biology.
In his seminal study into human starvation during World War II, biological researcher Ancel Keys (developer of the army's "K-Rations") discovered that reducing people's diet to a state of semi-starvation produced symptoms of irritability, loss of endurance, and obsessive behavior around food, including but not limited to lying, hoarding, and stealing.
Even more telling was that in the three month period after the semi-starvation was ended and people could once again eat whatever they wanted, the obsession with food continued. None of the subjects had regained their former physical capacity, and their daily caloric intake had increased to a level higher (at times far higher) than before the study began.
This experiment, documented in his 1950 treatise "The Biology of Human Starvation", is considered unreplicable - even if you could get the volunteers, to purposely starve people (even college students :-) is considered cruel and inhumane nowadays. But here's an interesting fact: the 'semi-starvation' rations from the original study amounted to 1500 calories a day - more than is allowed in any number of the 25,914 diet books listed at Amazon.com!
What 50 years ago was considered a globally conscious experiment in dealing with world hunger (Keys' own conclusion was that "Starved people cannot be taught democracy. To talk about the will of the people when you aren't feeding them is perfect hogwash.") has become a global obsession, with over $40 billion spent on weight loss products in the year 2000 (that's roughly a million dollars a day for 85 years!).
So what's the solution?
Here are three things you can begin to do immediately, adapted from the excellent book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
1. Reject the food police
Once you recognize the perils of voluntary starvation (sorry, "dieting"), you can begin to make peace with food. Instead of fighting with 'forbidden foods', which naturally become more attractive than anything else on the menu, you start out by eating what you like, when you like.
"But I'll eat nothing but chocolate!", I hear you cry in fear (and hope!).
Maybe at first - but studies have shown that over time, you will wind up eating a fairly balanced diet, or what the authors refer to as the 90-10 balance - 90% of your food will be light and nutritionally sound, and 10% will be "play" food.
2. Honor your hunger and feel your fullness
Imagine a 'hunger scale' which runs from 1 (Starving) to 10 (Better get a bucket). How hungry are you right now?
As you practice tuning in to your own hunger, you'll begin to recognize subtle signals long before your stomach growls and your brain gets fuzzy. Optimal eating occurs at around 3 or 4 and finishes when you reach 6 or 7 on your inner scale - the only scale that matters from now on!
3. Respect your body and honor your health
Jim Fixx, the man who single-handedly made jogging into the great American past time in the '70's, died aged 52 of a heart attack - while jogging. Jane Fonda, the godmother of the '80's aerobics movement survived her exercise-induced heart attack and having clearly learned from her near death experience, introduced the world to 'low-impact' aerobics. Susan Powter, the '90's eating guru who's catchphrase was 'Stop the insanity' had her bottom rib removed to give her the body shape she desired!
While I have no idea which get-fit 'expert' for the new millenium will be the first to fall victim to their own mythology, respecting our body's and honoring our health calls for us to unleash 'the guru within' - that is to tune in, listen to, and respect the messages from our own body.
"The psychological terror of hunger is profound."
-Naomi Wolfe, The Beauty Myth
In an age where airbrushing out lovehandles is no harder than putting Forrest Gump in the White House, it can be difficult to know what your optimal body shape and size really is. To put it another way, you may never have the body of Elle McPherson, but then again, neither will she!
Here's an exercise to begin getting in touch with your own natural body...
1. Each day, spend at least one minute looking at yourself in the mirror. In an ideal world, do this without clothes, but if that's too horrific a thought, anything but a mumu would be fine!
2. Notice what thoughts come up, from 'god I hate my thighs' to 'not bad for 45'.
3. Stick with it until you can look at your body in the mirror for a full minute without cringing, crying, or even commenting.
4. When you're ready, begin sending loving energy to the person in the mirror. Let them know that your love for them is not dependant on their waist size.
5. If you find all this too difficult, get the support of a loving friend, family member, or coach.
Have fun, learn heaps, and eat something!
Copyright by Michael Neill
This tip was brought to you by GeniusCatalyst.com and read by over 15000 people in 90 countries worldwide.